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INTA’s External Relations Department plays a vital role in representing the interests of the Association and its members before IP offices and governments worldwide, as Tat-Tienne Louembe, INTA’s Representative, Africa and the Middle East, explains to Aislinn Burton.
The creation and protection of IP rights has the potential to significantly contribute to economic diversification across Africa, and INTA has been increasing activities such as advocacy and education in efforts to explain this economic and social value across the continent.
“An IP-friendly environment is an important factor for attracting foreign investment, boosting innovation, enhancing competition, and fostering a business environment that is conducive to trade growth,” says Tat-Tienne Louembe, INTA’s Representative, Africa and the Middle East.
Mr. Louembe explains that economic diversification can—and does—happen through the protection and promotion of goods that are locally-produced and manufactured.
He believes the Association’s members are central to engagement activities across Africa. “Members are the lifeblood of INTA since, as practitioners, they are the ones dealing with IP offices, government officials, and other key actors on the ground,” he says.
"Members are the lifeblood of INTA since, as practitioners, they are the ones dealing with IP offices, government officials, and other key actors on the ground."
At an organizational level, INTA works with other bodies, including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the African Regional Intellectual Property Office, and the Organisation Africaine de la Propriété Intellectuelle, to create an IP-friendly environment.
These activities vary by jurisdiction. In Ethiopia, INTA is presently collaborating with the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office to recommend changes to the country’s IP infrastructure, which will contribute to accelerated economic transformation. In Kenya, Mr. Louembe says there has been an increasing strategic collaboration with key authorities, and the Association hopes it will facilitate local development and economic growth. The Association is also working with the Rwanda Intellectual Property Office to explore how INTA can support the country’s efforts to enhance IP protection.
Through his work at INTA, Mr. Louembe also conducts policy dialogues with key institutions, such as the African Union (AU), the European Union, and the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa. In March, INTA attended the official signing ceremony of the historic treaty of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA), which allows signatories to benefit from free trade across Africa.
The UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the CFTA will increase intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022, boosting economic growth and lifting millions of Africans out of poverty. The AU’s Department of Trade and Industry is now addressing the IP aspect of CFTA, since sufficient IP protection is vital to the agreement’s aim to increase manufacturing output and boost innovation.
Mr. Louembe says INTA is working to provide input during this implementation phase, “to ensure that the voice of brand owners is heard and that the benefit of strong protection for trademarks and related rights is kept as a top priority.”
In the future, Mr. Louembe says, INTA hopes to further collaborate with WIPO to host workshops in Sub-Saharan and North Africa and enhance the work of INTA’s Indigenous Rights Committee. He adds that he is currently engaging in “forward-looking” discussions with WIPO’s Traditional Knowledge Division to explore the potential for indigenous communities to be involved in a product’s value chain, particularly in the context of small and medium-sized enterprises in the handicraft trade.
“This approach will contribute to a better understanding of their IP rights and will empower indigenous communities to play an active role in protection,” Mr. Louembe explains.
INTA, INTA18, Tat-Tienne Louembe, IP in Africa, Middle East IP, economic diversification, trade growth, Continental Free Trade Area, African Union